A group art show curated by Steve Ellis and hosted by The Classic Car Club Manhattan.
Friday, November 10, 2023
6 - 10pm
By TAMARA WARREN November 9, 2023
“The silence continued. Here and there a driver shifted behind his steering wheel, trapped uncomfortably in the hot sunlight, and I had the sudden impression that the world had stopped. The wounds on my knees and chest were beacons tuned to a series of beckoning transmitters, carrying the signals, unknown to myself, which would unlock this immense stasis and free these drivers for the real destinations set for their vehicles, the paradises of the electric highway.”
J.G. Ballard, Crash, 1973
“In Ballard's work there is always this mix of futuristic dread and excitement, a sweet spot where dystopia and utopia converge.” – Zadie Smith on Ballard’s Crash, “The Guardian,” July 10, 2014.
The automobile is the sum of its parts. At face value, these parts are tactile, unassuming and vary in shape, size and weight. Welded, soldered, and printed in a singular form, these parts assume capability and ultimately become vessels for power.
That forceful narrative of human’s relationship to automobile can be compelling, but in some cases terrifying. Such was the case for artist and curator Steve Ellis, who was haunted by the searing memory of the moment he lost control of a car on a snowy mountain road. “It scraped along a cliff guard rail and then slid across the road, flipping into a ditch.” The weight of that moment — his family tucked in the passenger seats — stays with him and replays in his head. To process it, he revisits that transformative moment of peril in his work.
In the red, white and blue oil painting “USA Crash Helmet,” Ellis alludes to a sinister collision, a flame reflected in the visor’s reflection, metallic shimmery cracks splinter the helmet. It’s part of a larger body of work about car crashes. “I found it therapeutic to paint these scraped up cars as reminders of the emotionally charged moment. The adrenaline and the emotions following a near death experience moved me to create the work,” he says.
Ellis expands his investigation of the relationship between object and experience in the exhibition “New Clutch.” In cars, the clutch is a mechanical device that manages the transfer of power from the engine to the transmission onto the wheels. Clutch, of course, is also reflective of that moment of being on the precipice, hanging on for dear life.
Ellis invited 20 artists to contribute work that riff on the dichotomy between man and machine for “New Clutch.” The exhibition will be held at the Classic Car Club in Manhattan, a venue dedicated to the adoration of automobiles. Car parts function as symbols for the members, badges of what they covet, collect and commune over. The legacy of artists who dive within the automotive art canon are reimagined in sculpture by Agatha Snow and Marianne Vitales constructed from the 1970s artist John Chamberlain’s parts refuse. Linda Griggs summons up kid car culture in “Hot Wheels Big Orange Loops,” showing dual loopily-loop tracks, she says were inspired by odd tools parents have used for spankings. The work has ironic consequence as the track becomes a weapon and a source for imaginative entertainment. Artist Allen Hansen paints in tar.
In Wendy White’s 2019 work “Future Shock,” a woman leans over a sky-blue Pontiac Firebird convertible, hand running through hair, talking to the driver, as if she is stomping on the parts from performance related brands, suggestive in nature. The work is from White’s “Manhandled” series, material sourced from vintage enthusiast print ads shuffled about, enlarged, hand painted, printed on canvas smudged with greasy male acrylic fingerprints on the borders. The art and object mingle with the notion of objectification and pose the question, who —and what — is in control? WM